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UCSF Researchers Identify Regulator of Human Sperm Cells
Date:2/4/2010

UCSF researchers have identified an elusive molecular regulator that controls the ability of human sperm to reach and fertilize the egg, a finding that has implications on both treating male infertility and preventing pregnancy.

(Vocus) February 4, 2010 -- UCSF researchers have identified an elusive molecular regulator that controls the ability of human sperm to reach and fertilize the egg, a finding that has implications on both treating male infertility and preventing pregnancy.

The team of biophysicists and molecular biologists also broke through a previous barrier to this research by developing a method to record electrical activity of a single human sperm cell through a process called patch-clamping.

The new findings shed light on a number of previous conundrums, including how sperm cells that are quiescent in the male reproductive system get activated in the female reproductive tract and why marijuana and zinc affect sperm motility and male fertility, the researchers say.

The findings are featured as the cover story in the February 5, 2010 issue of the journal, “Cell” and are available online at http://www.cell.com.

The molecule in question, known as Hv1, operates as a pore in the outer membrane of the sperm cell that extrudes protons from the cell. Protons are positively charged particles in every atom that are also stable on their own in the form of the H+ hydrogen ion.

That extrusion process increases the pH of the internal cell environment, which makes it less acidic. Hv1 had previously been known to be primarily present in immune cells called phagocytes, but had not been seen in other cells, including spermatozoa, according to Yuriy Kirichok, PhD, an assistant professor in the UCSF Department of Physiology who led the research.

Hv1 also was k
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